Filed under: Thoughts
I am starting a new position on Wednesday, working as a Talent Attraction Manager with AT&T and Chris Hoyt‘s awesome team of sourcers. Before starting my gig however, I decided to take a little low-key trip to visit some friends in various places. While heading home on Sunday night, my flight ended up being over-booked, and we were asked if anyone would volunteer to take a later flight. As I’m still technically on vacation, I decided to give up my seat since I figured there were some folks with little kids or people who had to be at work the next day. What a Good Samaritan 🙂 haha! As a result, I was given a voucher for a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the continental US, got bumped to first class for my flight today, and was provided a nice hotel, breakfast, and dinner at no cost to me. I think in this case being nice was certainly to my advantage!
I was comfortable doing this because I have been involuntarily stuck in a few cities overnight in the past, and having learned from experience, I always fly prepared for one additional day of being wherever I’m flying from. Preparing yourself for unexpected layovers is a smart thing to do, as airlines today are overbooking a lot in expectation of some travelers canceling at the last minute or not showing up, and they want to ensure full flights and maximum profitability.
So, from this personal experience, I wanted to share a couple of things I’ve learned over the last few years of traveling about preparing yourself to work on the road when you’re unexpectedly delayed in getting home.
- Bring a functional carry-on. I bought a Wenger SwissGear backpack last fall and I absolutely love it. It’s got a place for my laptop, a middle compartment for personal gear, and several front pockets to stash a ton of stuff. I’m amazed at how much I can carry in it. Computer cases are nice, but many of them don’t have extra room to carry much of anything else.
- Pack your carry-on with overnight essentials. Some airlines will provide you with a little emergency bag if you get delayed overnight due to weather, or if you voluntarily give up your seat on an overbooked flight. But this doesn’t have all the things you’ll need – for example, I wear contacts and there’s never a lens case or saline solution in those bags. Here are some things you should consider packing for an unexpected overnight:
- An extra set of clothes – at the very least, a shirt and underwear
- Stuff to shower and clean up with – makeup, shampoo, shaving essentials, etc.
- Dollars and loose change – this is for vending machines and tipping airport shuttles for helping you out in a jam. Remember – being in a less-than-desirable situation doesn’t excuse lack of human courtesy. It’s not the shuttle driver’s fault!
- With your laptop – a travel plug and adapters to sync your phone (if you sync w/ your phone) – just in case one or the other runs out of juice!
- Wear comfortable clothes when you travel. I know many of you who travel for work have to dress professionally when you fly. If you have to do so, make sure you wear your most comfortable suit/dress suit. Sitting for hours in an itchy uncomfortable outfit only magnifies the suckiness of getting stuck somewhere. If you can, wear pants you wouldn’t mind wearing for 2 days in a row in a pinch. Also, wear layers because you never know if the temperature where you’re at will plummet or warm up suddenly.
- Make sure you wear comfortable shoes. I got stuck in Atlanta once when I was wearing a cute pair of black leather boots, and by the time I got home they hit the trash because I’d rubbed up some monstrous blisters in them from all the extra walking I had to do. Now, I almost always wear sneakers that have been broken in, or if I have to dress nicely, I have a pair of heels that cost a little more but were designed for comfort. Having sore feet is the worst when you’ve been stranded.
- Back up your laptop before you leave. I have an external hard drive that I use to back up my laptop about once a week. However, before I travel I always back it up before leaving. Got forbid anything happen to my laptop, but as a safety precaution it’s good to have an up-to-date backup just in case.
- Be prepared with your work when you travel. When coming back from a conference in San Francisco a couple of years ago, I got stuck in the Denver airport for 6 hours. Thankfully, I had my laptop and phone with me and didn’t miss a beat of work. In addition, almost all the tools and resources I used were web-based, so they weren’t tied to desktop applications that would only work if I was using a certain computer. This whole ‘cloud computing‘ or ‘cloud recruiting‘ thing comes in real handy when you find yourself in a location that is not your normal work space. One additional thought here as well: I keep all of my calendar appointments synced on my phone, so I always know where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing, even if I don’t have my computer with me. And finally…
- BE FLEXIBLE. This especially applies to weather delays. I’ve been stuck overnight in Atlanta three times to date due to weather. Each time, there were always a couple of people who huffed and puffed and acted like the airline was at fault for the bad weather. If you ever find yourself in this spot, don’t be that guy. You’re all in the same boat and no one is going to get preferential treatment in a situation like that, so you might as well suck it up and deal with it. I always try to make the most of experiences like that – find an interesting place to go eat, or have a nice conversation with some of your fellow travelers. When I was delayed for 4 hours in Chicago over Christmas, I befriended the Army guy who had been sitting next to me and we still stay in touch. Had it not been for the snow, I might not have made that new friend!
Listen, it’s easy to keep yourself productive at work when unexpected travel delays occur. You just have to prepare yourself. Opportunities to exercise this present themselves to us every single day in all different forms. I recently wrote a post on how I feel about luck. If you keep yourself prepared daily for the unexpected, you’ll find tons of “luck” everywhere you go, even when you get stranded!
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